I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

January 05, 2012 - 11:05 a.m.

Galileo Galileo Galileo Let Him Go

Hey I remembered what I want to write about today. I wonder if I'll actually end up writing about it. We'll see.

I went to the library yesterday, I returned Lisa Randall's Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World and took out Terry Pratchett's Nation. The library's website said it was in the Young Adult Fiction section. My library is small and I'd figure I'd find it without asking. There's just the adult book room, the children's book room, and the small periodical section behind the librarians' desks. Where would YA be? My thinking was that if I were running a library I wouldn't want teens near the kids so it would be next to the adult fiction books. They weren't. I looked through the entire adult section and it wasn't there. I checked to see if it was shelved with the adult books. That's what they did with what used to be the separate science fiction section, just put them in general fiction. It wasn't there. So I went the children's section. It wasn't there either. I checked by the New Books section, it wasn't there but a librarian asked what I was looking for. She told me that YA is in the periodical section. It was hidden in the one wall you can't see from the rest of the library. So now I have a new book to read. I tried to add a new feature to the Wise Madness the book I'm currently reading. For some reason it isn't showing up. It is supposed to be on the right side column. I changed it to the left and it shows but it's in the middle of the page. Why isn't it at the top of the column? Anyone know? I think with some work I can figure it out but I'll just leave it for now.

That was my excitement for the day. I did some shopping and finally replaced the belt I broke and bought socks. Why do I always need socks? Who eats them?

I recalculated the Closeness Index of my friends. It's a measure of how closely two people's Facebook Friends overlap. I calculated it after NERFA but never posted the results here. There's been a lot of movement since then. two people moved up 9 spots! That never happens. I think people edited down their FB friends leaving a core that included all our mutual friends. Here's the top 25.

Harmonic is the actual rating; it is based on the harmonic mean.

I always feel good when the people I'm emotionally close to go up in the ratings and feel bad when they go down. I know it's silly. So much of it is just the way people manage their Facebook friends, but I can't help it. I want objective evidence to bolster my subjective feelings of closeness.

I am going to resist writing more of a statistical analysis of this. I will show you people that gained the most.

I don't know what's going on with Glen. I don't think I've had any contact with him since the last time I calculated the index and he went up a record amount.

Amy created a new Facebook profile so this is just a matter of things settling down. She was the inspiration for making the index as we know all the same people.

I've known Carey forever but we live in different parts of the country and no longer travel so much in the same circles. I think it's a case of us friending each other's friends.

Honor, Mark, Carolann, Sharon, and Anna are either Chicks with Dip, or married to a Chick [I'll let you figure out who that is]. I am being drawn into their world. In fact I'm seeing them all tonight at the Christopher Street Coffeehouse where the Chicks are doing a tribute to Joni Mitchell's Blue. They are going to perform the entire album. I'm going to be Scooter (i.e. the stage manager). Those that can sing, those that can't get in the way. Oh and you should be there. The show is at 7:30.

OK time to write about what I planned writing about; responses to ideas in Lisa Randall's book. You know the one I returned right at the beginning of this entry and don't have in front of me to help me anymore.

Let's get the science first. The book gives as good an explanation of how science works as I've ever read. It also brings you right up to date on the most basic science there is, the way the universe works and its large scale structure. If you want to be scientifically literate, read it. I can't think of any other book that will bring you up to speed as fast.

I love Lisa's politics. Physicist is tied with social worker as the most liberal profession. Does that surprise you? It shouldn't. As Paul Krugman says, "Facts have a well-known liberal bias'" and physicist respect facts. The book isn't about politics but it works its way in there. Remember when people were afraid that the Large Hadron Accelerator, the central topic of the book, was going to create black holes and destroy the earth? She explains why it wouldn't but then how she kept getting asked about it. An interviewer asked her if scientists would perform an experiment that might create a disaster on earth. She said, "We already are, pumping huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the air." What a great way of putting it. Even if we don't know for sure that global warming will create a disaster there is certainly a real chance that it will.

She also writes about the relationship of science and religion in a way that is totally in tune with my views. She disagrees with another of my heroes, Stephen Jay Gould who said that science and religion exist in "nonoverlapping magisteria." He wrote an essay on it, Nonoverlapping Magisteria. They do overlap and come in conflict. It doesn't help to make believe they don't. Religion says things about the universe.

Lisa, Stephen, and I all grew up fairly close to each other in time and space, northeast Queens.

What I really want to write about though is where I disagree with St. Augustine and Galileo. I didn't know that Galileo's theology echoed St. Augustine till I read the book. When I think of the conflict of science and religion now the first thing to come to my mind is evolution. Science does contradict the biblical story of creation and many people, too many including every Republican candidate for president other than Huntsman, choose the side of religion or at least treat the two theories equally. St. Augustine had a more enlightened view 1600 years ago. He said that when the bible comes in conflict with what we know to be true don't push it because it looks bad to the pagans. That got me thinking. The part of the bible that speak of how the universe is made is the old testament. The Christians he was speaking to were part of the far more knowledgeable Greco-Roman world. The Jewish mythology was foreign to them. It wasn't what they grew up with. They didn't start believing that pi was equal to three when they converted. They would not have taken those parts as literally.

During the dark ages people became less knowledgeable and perhaps more important the Church gained power and wasn't worried about what pagans would think and was more concerned with maintaining its control. It became intolerant of new ideas. Galileo fell back on St. Augustine's position. He said that the bible can never be wrong so if the facts seem to disagree with it then we are misinterpreting the bible. The Catholic Church eventually accepted that viewpoint. Someone modern in the Church said that Galileo was a better theologian than the pope he was in conflict with. That's where I disagree. That's terrible theology or philosophy, or logic. It's saying that the bible is always right because if it is wrong we'll just change what we say it means. So it means nothing. Whatever it says you can reinterpret to mean what you want. This is of course exactly what people do. Look how it is used to support both extreme right wing and left wing economics. It becomes an exercise in sophistry, not philosophy. It's about making an argument that sounds good, not that has logic behind it.

Galileo is one of my heroes of heroes. I don't want him to have actually believed that and there's a reasonable chance that he didn't. He knew what he was publishing and saying was dangerous. We know that when he was shown the instruments of torture he renounced heliocentrism. He might or might not have muttered "but yet it moves" under his breath but we can be pretty sure he never actually changed his beliefs. He knew that it did move no matter what he said. I'd like to think that he made up that nonsense theology he knew it was silly but would get people off his back. I'm not saying that's what he believed. I don't know that. Nobody does. I'm just saying it's a reasonable possibility.

OK I finally got that off my chest. Now I'm going to make an omelet and go to a great show tonight. I'll also find time to read.

I signed the Pro-Truth Pledge:
please hold me accountable.

Memories: Not that Horrid Song - May 29, 2018
Wise Madness is Now In Session - May 28, 2018
The NFL and the First Amendment - May 27, 2018
On The Road Again - May 26, 2018
Oliver the Three-Eyed Crow - May 25, 2018

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Horvendile January 05, 2012
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